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The Tiertime Up Mini 2 may not be the cheapest option on our list, but if you’re serious about getting into 3D printing, it's worth the investment. The machine boasts a number of high-end features you might not expect from a beginner model; for starters, it’s an extremely reliable unit with a robust build that belies its sub-$1,000 cost. Additionally, the Tiertime Up Mini 2 can connect over Wi-Fi or USB, has a touchscreen for ease of use, and runs Tiertime Up Studio software which is powerful and relatively easy to learn. You can connect to the printer via a dedicated iOS app on your iPhone or iPad, and jobs can be queued up just as they would on a traditional printer.
When it comes to supplies, Tiertime also produces filament (in eight different colors) that works with the Mini 2, however, you can use other more budget-friendly brands of filament as well. The 14-pound printer is well-designed and should look right at home on any desk, but even better, it's safety conscious. The Mini 2 has an array of security features, including a kid-friendly door check and a built-in air filtration system. The unit has a build volume of 4.7" x 4.7" x 4.7" and operates at 51 decibels.
If you're looking to dip your toe into the world of 3D printing with an affordable model, the XYZ da Vinci Nano is a great option. Priced below $200, there are plenty of things to love about the printer — even beyond its wallet-friendly price. Firstly, the da Vinci Nano is super easy to use as it runs XYZprinting software which is free and compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. You can also access more than 30 printing lessons through XYZprinting online. The unit is able to print monochrome builds up to 4.7" x 4.7" x 4.7" using PLA and PETG materials. A non-heated print bed and fully-enclosed design make it suitable for use in classrooms and at home even if you have small children.
Of course, with such a low price tag, there are a few downsides to consider with the XYZprinting da Vinci Nano. For starters, the unit only works with XYZ’s PLA filament, so you can’t use third-party filament once you run out. Additionally, the unit is relatively slow printing at 70 mm/s — though this is a small concession for such a well-rounded and well-priced machine.
If you're working with a shoestring budget, the 3Doodler Create 3D Pen is worth considering. While it's admittedly not a traditional 3D printer, it still works like one — and may be your only real option in the sub-$75 range. The Create 3D Pen is exactly as it sounds; it’s basically a pen that emits instantly-cooled filament, so you can “draw” a shape in 3D.
The good news for beginners is that the Create 3D Pen allows you to quickly and easily create 3D shapes without needing to first design them on a computer. There’s also almost no setup involved — just insert some filament into the pen, then start creating shapes. All you have to do it turn on the pen, set its temperature, and press the 'fast' or 'slow' button to get things started. The pen comes with five projects, but you can also download additional free instructional guides online. The pen measures 6.3" x 0.7" x 0.7" and weighs 12.8 ounces, so it's easy to transport.
The Monoprice Select Mini 2 is a great midrange printer for beginners — especially those who like to tinker. The 3D printer is slightly advanced compared to others on our list; it offers built-in software and can work with your slicer of choice. That means if you're already familiar with a popular program like Cura or Repetier, for example, you're good to go. There are other things to like about the Monoprice Select Mini 2 as well; it ships fully assembled so you won't have to cobble it together, it has a MicroSDTM card with preinstalled models, it can work with a wide array of filaments, it prints at 55mm/second, and it has a 3.7" IPS screen for easy navigation.
On the downside, the Monoprice Select Mini 2 has a relatively small build scope given its open design (4.7" x 4.7" x 4.7") and it has no protective enclosure — so you’ll need to be extra careful around the heated build plate.
If you're shopping for a 3D printer that works with any system and via any connectivity mode, the FlashForge Finder may be the printer for you. Not only is it compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux computers, but it can also connect through a USB cable, over Wi-Fi, or even using a USB drive. The 3D printer also has a lot of intelligent features, including an assisted leveling system which — via instructions on the printer's 3.5-inch color touchscreen — can help you calibrate your build plate for precise printing. Speaking of the build plate, FlashForge Finder's is non-heated and slides in/out of the machine which makes removing your completed print super easy. The printer also supports 3D Cloud function which enables you to store your models online and check your printing status.
If you're using the Finder at home, you'll appreciate how quiet it is. Operating at 50 decibels and under (about the same as your refrigerator), it's suitable for late-night use — even if you have little ones sleeping. When it comes to filament, the machine prints PLA only, but the Finder does come with a free spool and you can buy refills from other brands.
The MakerBot Replicator Mini+ certainly doesn't come cheap, but if you'd prefer to invest in a full-featured machine that you can really grow your skills with, it's a great one to consider. The 3D printer offers excellent print quality, thanks in part to its ability to print at up to a 100-micron resolution and 10%-faster than its predecessor. On top of that, there are a ton of settings that you can tweak, such as printer speed, extruder temperature, amount of infill, and so on. The printer runs free MakerBot Print software, supports native CAD files, and allows for automatic slicing specific to your printer model, software version, and extruder type.
You can control your machine quite easily by pairing it with MakerBot Print software and MakerBot Mobile; since the device is cloud-enabled, this allows you to run it remotely via your phone or computer. Another major plus is its factory-leveled build plate which features Grip Surface to ensure your builds are sturdy as they print and less warped upon completion. There's also automatic jam detection and an 'out of filament' notification so you'll know if your project runs into any issues. Note that the machine works exclusively with MakerBot filament and can be quite loud, so it's probably not your best option for late-night use at home.
Looking for a 3D printer with a large enough build area for bigger projects? If so, the Creality3D CR-10 Max is the way to go. This unit — which supports Windows, Linux, Mac, and XP — is capable of printing builds up to 11.8" x 11.8" x 15.8", and best of all, it won't cost you an arm and a leg (as far as 3D printers go, anyway).
Though you'll have to put in about 10 minutes of work to get it built (it arrives in three pieces), the kit comes with the printer, a work bag, an 8GB SD card, and 200 grams of PLA to get you started (though the machine works with more than 10 types of printing materials). The Creality3D CR-10 Max has a simple, easy-to-understand design and an intuitive control box. Further, the printer works with most 3D printing software — which is great news for those already have a preferred program.